As I progress through studying the Old Testament, I continue to be transfixed by the succession of Kings of Israel who did evil in the sight of the Lord, contrasted with those who did what was right. Time after time a ruler is appointed who does not follow God, only to be saved by the occasional rise to power of one who fears the Lord and does everything He commands; they did not turn to the left or to the right but followed the Lord with all their heart.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Vaughan
Despite years of recent history where they could see disastrous results when they turned from the Lord and favorable blessings when they followed Him, still the people continually returned to doing evil. The good kings would come to power and destroy the temples created for foreign gods, the high places that had been built up for worship, and they would put to death those who were leading others to live in a manner contrary to God’s commands. In a word, they were zealous for the Lord.
A common prayer for me lately has been to ask God to help me “not to turn to the left or to the right.” When I am confronted with opportunities to disobey Him, I repeat that mantra in my head and move forward in His way. It has been a helpful reminder, one that has brought me many small victories in spiritual battles. These little wins build confidence and allow one to face bigger challenges with the Lord. There is nothing magic in this mantra, but I do believe we were given the Word of God so that we might learn from it and utilize it to know how we should live our lives. By learning from the mistakes of others in the past, we are free to move forward in boldness and victory. Those who have gone before have made the path clear, and have done so at the sacrifice of their own lives.
Another take away from the history of Israel is the zeal of the Kings who followed the Lord with all their heart. They did not allow the false practices and distractions of the day to stand in their way of doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord. This has great relevance in our society today. We have allowed many evil practices to thrive in our culture; we have not torn down the idols that lead so many astray. Advertisers peddle their wares through the use of sexually provocative images; entertainment sells itself by glorifying violence and destroying the self esteem of others. We are told to pursue careers so that we can gain all the material possessions we possibly can; indeed, that has become the measure of our success. All of this is in direct disobedience to the Lord. Jesus came to demonstrate purity, love and humility. We have created a society that loathes all of His teachings and instead promotes the direct opposite. As a Church, we have allowed these things to happen outside our walls and have given little more than lip service to putting an end to the evil practices.
I think it is important to zealously campaign against the practices of our age, but to do so in the manner Christ demonstrated for us. We must not become legalistic and overbearing; this has been attempted by some in the past, and the results have been that many were turned off by our lack of love and ultimately turned away from God. We must always provide good reasons for believing the way we do. When Josiah became King of Judah, He brought out the Scriptures and read them in the presence of the people. He then went out and did all they commanded. This should be our tact as well. Tell the people that Jesus loves them and explain that He died so that they might live. Then go out and live as He commanded so that the people might be instructed in what is right by observing our lives. Zeal need not be demonstrated with a ruthless frontal assault. The way of Jesus was to express His passion by coming alongside of people and serving them, by coming up under them and lifting them up. In this way we can affect our culture from the ground up, rather than from the top down.
We don’t need to brow beat others or lord authority over them. We simply need to serve them in love and demonstrate the truth of Scripture throughout our daily lives. In this way we will tear down the idols and the high places of false worship. We will demonstrate that Jesus is indeed Lord of all. By following Him with all our heart, we will demonstrate His love and power to a fallen world. We will destroy evil from the inside out and transform darkness into Light though the power of God. It starts with you and me; we must first model the life of Christ in our own lives before any will be attracted to it. Don’t turn to the right or to the left in anything you do, but rather stay true to the One who is your King. In this way we will fulfill the mission of Christ and bring His Kingdom to life on earth.